How has a man whose fortée is the filibuster and whose first tweet was in Latin now suddenly become a potential future PM?
Elected in 2010 and with majority of over 10,000, his great charisma, charm, and fearless efforts to give Somerset their own time-zone have obviously not been wasted on the people of North east Somerset. It may seem to some that ‘Moggmentum’ would be an obvious side effect of such a straight forward and unequivocally British chap. Yet his early career was not one of instant success, but rather one of outright electoral rejection. Standing for the constituency of Central Fife in 1997 he won only 9% of the vote. His efforts to gain ‘name recognition’ were flawed by his inability to understand the Fife accent and his own upper-class mannerisms. The story followed the same pattern when he stood for the seat of The Wrekin, where the national swing towards the conservatives ran in the opposite direction reducing their vote. It seems obvious that a man who is proud to name one of his six children Anselm or even Sixtus, would fail to gain traction in such a seat as Fife where Labour was strong at the time or such a closely contended seat as The Wrekin (where virtually every election has reversed the decision of the previous).
One must then beg the question, how has he suddenly shot up in popularity?
Well the answer is simply this, that Jacob Rees-Mogg is an eccentric character and a great performer. He speaks with a degree of perceived honesty and yet somehow maintains good humour at all times. In an age where we are more used to understanding performances than factual unengaging politics his mannerisms engage us and his eccentricities hold our interest. We may be the electorate, but in simplicity we are the audience and politics is our weekly reality show. Everyone likes a bit of drama and light humour. Jacob Rees-Mogg provides both.
In the past he has argued that policemen with the power to issue on-the-spot fines should wear bowler hats because:
“People would then know when an accredited person was getting close to them and would be able to scarper in the opposite direction.”
He has attempted to get Somerset its’ own time-zone (fifteen minutes behind London). He has built for himself an excellent reputation as a filibuster. During these lengthy discourses he has somehow managed to mention, The Battle of Agincourt, Floccinaucinihilipilification (the act of estimating something as worthless) and a mug he owned as a child with a poem emblazoned on the side of it about the bliss of a farmer’s life. And this is only the tip of the ice berg. His first tweet was ‘Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis.’ (the times change, and we change with them) and in general conversation he regularly brings up his children, the superiority of Somerset, history.
His charisma makes him ideal for TV, Radio and Newspapers. He has made regular appearances on the BBC’s Question Time, Daily Politics, Any Questions, Have I Got News For You, and Newsnight. On top of this he has had guest appearances on LBC, Good Morning Britain and ITV’s Peston on Sunday (3 times). He has also been at the centre of countless newspaper articles both online and in print. There are not many back benchers that are so regularly in the national public’s eye.
These media appearances have helped to promote his person and brand. The fact that every time he is brought up in conversation his name is said in full supports this. He has essentially become the new Boris Johnson. posh, flamboyant, eccentric beyond belief; but still somehow loved. One may notice that he tries to distance himself from interparty conflict, allowing him to be liked by all. This is a tool that Boris used as well during his time as London Mayor but has since lost as an MP and candidate for Conservative Party leader. This is not to say that Jacob Rees-Mogg does not have strong beliefs. One need only look at his recent appearance on Good Morning Britain where he admitted being anti-gay marriage. Despite this, his lack of interest in interparty conflict and his persona have so far been enough to distract from his beliefs. When most people imagine him, they imagine the accent, the suits and the glasses, not his opinions on what should and should not be considered sin.
This may help to explain why he is distancing himself from the claims that he is looking to stand for the role of Tory leader. This move would likely bring out much more than just his accent or his fondness for Latin as it would plunge him head first into that party politics. However, this does not mean that he wouldn’t jump into the race if one is ever called. After all he has no immediate allegiance to May — given that he supported all other candidates but May in the previous leadership election — and it is not a ridiculous idea for someone with such a cult following within Tory party members — if the political punters are to be believed — to throw himself into the running.
Whether he would win or not is anyone’s guess. He may be a popular politician, but that does not necessarily mean that he would be a good Prime Minister, nor capable of winning an election. He appeals to a select section of society and of his party. He is after all firmly on the right of the political spectrum in a time where the left politics are obviously becoming popular.
Studies History with Politics at the University of Buckingham